‘Neptune Frost’ Review: Saul Williams’ Visionary Film Explores Love And Afro-Futurism

Directors Anisia Uzeyman and multi-talented Saul Williams deep dive into Afro-Futurism with the new film Neptune Frost. Premiering at Director’s Fortnight in Cannes, and official selection at the Toronto International Film Festival, and New York Film Festival, this is a bold story about how the power of music, technology, and dreams can profoundly impact human connection. The sensual visuals, coupled with an anti-capitalist theme, is inventive and surreal. While the setting is somewhat bleak, this is a film about finding happiness in community and embracing the future.

Set in Rwanda, this cyber-musical follows Matalusa (Bertrand Ninteretse), a poverty-stricken miner, and an intersex hacker Neptune (played by Elivs Ngabo and Cheryl Isheja), and who find one another through cyberspace. Their chemistry is instant, and love emancipates them from the physical and internal struggle they face. Williams creates a tender dynamic between the two characters. Witnessing Black joy in cinema isn’t as prominent as it should be, but Williams does his due diligence to form a balance for the audience.

The film interrogates the rampant poverty that affects various countries across the African continent through Neptune and Matalusa’s relationship. Williams also investigates technology, how it can help or be harmful, and impacts on the people living in the real world and the parallel world he creates. The story and plotting are scattered, but the film is easier to digest if you think of Matalusa and Neptune representing societal ideals like freedom and empathy, Psychology (Trésor Niyongabo) and Memory (Eliane Umuhire). It makes sense for characters to personify words that are hallmarks for humanity.

Williams wrote the music and score for the film, choosing to begin and end it with the beat of the drum. This is apt as music and sound are the beating heart of Neptune Frost. You can hear the lyrics and poetry in motion as the music narrates the story like a Greek chorus, thus giving the audience just enough information to move the story forward. Uzeyman’s cinematography will take the viewer on a journey of visual ecstasy with its symbolic use of lush neon red and blue hues reflected on Black skin. Ominous red flashes of light appear in scenes when something sinister is afoot, while the cool blue tones denote innocence, goodness, and beauty.

Neptune Frost portrays what Afro-Futurism could look like if Hollywood took risks with films like this. This lo-fi slice of science fiction looks to build its niche. The camera is constantly moving, and if you blink, you might miss something vital to the story. Cinema needs more inclusive stories that capture the lives of people all over the world. Saul Williams has a promising career as a writer/director as his creative vision and ability to think outside the box are needed to push cinema forward.

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